THE TEN (REALLY ELEVEN) COMMANDMENTS TO FOLLOW WHEN APPEARING FOR A DEPOSITION OR SWORN STATEMENT

Whether you are pursuing a personal injury or insurance claim, or are a debtor in bankruptcy, or a plaintiff or defendant in a lawsuit, you will likely be required to answer questions under oath. On those occasions, remember that the person asking you the questions is, in all probability, not on your side. It is in your best interest to have an attorney represent your interests when you are subpoenaed for a deposition or requested to provide a sworn statement.

Your attorney will be able to object to irrelevant lines of questioning, redirect the deposition into appropriate areas, and prevent the questioner from putting you on Trial through a simple sworn statement.

Your attorney will walk you through the deposition process and help you understand the following guidelines:

1. Do not volunteer information; answer only the question asked. No matter how much you want to help the case, avoid the temptation to expand your answer beyond the question asked.

2. Listen to the question asked. Never interrupt a question with an answer.

3. Do not answer any question unless you understand the question and the information requested by the question. If you do not understand a question, you should request that the question be repeated or clarified.

4. Do not guess when answering a question. All that you are required to provide is your best recollection. If you do not know or remember the answer to a particular question, say so. Just because you are asked a question does not mean that the question has an answer and that you must have an answer.

5. Do not bring any documents to the deposition/sworn statement unless there is a written request specifying the documents you are to have with you, or unless your lawyer so advises. When presented with documents or exhibits during the deposition/sworn statement, take time to review the materials to be sure that they are genuine and take time to think about what the document represents.

6. Listen, concentrate and focus on the questions asked. A deposition/sworn statement is not the time to engage in small talk or jokes. If you get too comfortable with the person asking the questions, you may not realize what you have answered.

7. Be polite and never become angry or hostile. By becoming angry or hostile you restrict your capacity to listen and concentrate on the questions asked.

8. When faced with a leading question, that is a question that suggests the answer, or a hypothetical question, that is a question that assumes facts, be sure that the entire substance of the question is accurate before answering “yes.” If any part of these kinds of questions is inaccurate, then either correct the inaccuracy before answering or simply answer “no.”

9. Do not hesitate to correct errors you may make during the course of the deposition/sworn statement. Everyone miss-speaks and forgets things.

10. Respond to each question; but at the same time make the question mean what you want it to mean and answer the question the way you want to answer the question.

11. TELL THE TRUTH! Do not lie, exaggerate, or overstate what you know.

Remember that it is in your best interest to have an attorney represent your interests when you are going to give a deposition or sworn statement.

If you have received a subpoena, contact us today to look out for your best interest.

THINGS TO KNOW AS YOU CONTEMPLATE BANKRUPTCY

All individual debtors who file bankruptcy must participate in credit counseling within six months before filing for bankruptcy and complete a financial management instructional course after filing bankruptcy. These courses can be completed online from your home computer.

At the time of filing, a means test (analysis of your income and expenses) to determine if you qualify to file a Chapter 7 or if you must file Chapter 13. In applying the means test, the courts will look at your average income for the 6 months prior to filing and compare it to the median income for Florida. If the income is below the median, then you may choose Chapter 7. If your income exceeds the median, the remaining parts of the means test will be applied to determine if you can file Chapter 7 or if you must file Chapter 13.

To begin the bankruptcy process you must itemize your current income sources; major financial transactions for the last two years; monthly living expenses; debts (secured and unsecured); and property (all assets and possessions, not just real estate). You should also collect your tax returns for the last two years, deeds to any real estate you own, your car(s) titles, and the documents for any loans you may have.

Once you have gathered this information, we will help you determine which property is exempt from seizure. In Florida, exemptions include:

• Your house, mobile or modular home, or condominium (may not exceed half-acre in a municipality or 160 acres elsewhere). The exemption is limited to $160,375, unless you occupied this Florida homestead and previous Florida homesteads for a continuous 1,215 day period.

• Personal property such as prepaid accounts like hurricane savings, medical savings and college education trust deposits; motor vehicle up to $1,000; pre-need funeral contract deposits; any personal property up to $1,000 or $4,000 if no homestead claimed

• 100 percent of wages earned by the head of the household, up to $750 a week; federal government employees’ pension payments needed for support and received up to three months prior to bankruptcy

• Pensions, tax-exempt retirement accounts like 401(k)s, profit sharing/money purchase plans, SEP and SIMPLE IRAs, defined benefit plans, IRAs and Roth IRAs to $1,283,025, state/municipal pensions and ERISA qualified benefits

• Public benefits such as unemployment compensation, veterans benefits, Social Security, workers compensation and crime victims’ compensation, unless debts for treatment of crime-related injury are part of filing

• Alimony/child support

• Insurance payments such as death benefits, annuities (excluding lottery winnings), life insurance cash surrender value, disability/illness benefits and fraternal society benefits.

To actually file, we will complete a petition and several schedules which describe your current financial status and recent financial transactions (typically within the last two years). If your creditors or the judge feel or find out that you have not been entirely forthcoming in your bankruptcy filing, it could jeopardize the outcome of your petition.

If you are filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, a proposed repayment plan must also be submitted. The plan sets out the amount of money you have available, after reasonable monthly expenses have been paid, to put toward your outstanding bill and how this money be apportioned to your creditors. Priority claims (such as taxes and back child support) must be paid in full; unsecured debts (like credit card debt and medical bills) are usually paid in part. Depending upon the judgments of those involved with your case, unsecured debts can be paid off for as little as 10 cents on the dollar.

Once we have filed your bankruptcy petition with the bankruptcy court, an automatic stay goes into effect which prevents your creditors from making direct contact with you or staking a claim on any of your property from the day of filing forward. The stay will also stop the proceedings in any pending foreclosure action filed against you.

If you are contemplating a Bankruptcy and need legal counsel who will protect your interests, please contact us .